Z-Burbia (Book 3): Estate Of The Dead, страница 1
Estate Of The Dead
It’s interesting how a series progresses. When I wrote the first book in theZ-Burbia series, I figured it would be a satiric take on suburban life against the backdrop of a zombie apocalypse. I mean, we all have that story in us, am I right? However, as the series moved on, and I now release book three, I realize that no matter how satirical I want to be the fact is that during the zombie apocalypse, people’s lives are ruined, families destroyed, loved ones lost, enemies killed. Not always the funniest backdrop.
So, the series has grown darker with each book and this one is no exception. I tried to keep the tone light where I could, but the story takes ya where it takes ya. That being said, I think this is my favorite book of the series. Why? Two words: cannibal savant. Or one word: Elsbeth.
This is her story, in a way. In fact, if you look at the other books carefully, you’ll see that the series so far has actually been her story. Sure, that snarky SOB, Jace Stanford, has been narrating and hogging the spotlight, but he wouldn’t have a spotlight without her. She saves his smart ass time and time again. No different in Z3.
Z-Burbia 3: Estate Of The Dead will cap the Ashevillestory arc. It won’t be the lastZ-Burbia book by far, but it will give some closure to what’s been building in the last two books. That leaves room for the narrative to move along in the world. I have a feeling Z4 will be back to the snark; kinda a psychological reboot. So think of Z1-Z3 as one long movie in three acts. Z3 is the climax (hee, hee, hee, I said climax). And, boy howdy, is it ever! Enjoy!
PS- When you get to the end, don’t hate me. I’m a sucker for drama. More is coming!
“Echo Team set?”
“Bravo Team set?”
“Boots down and ready.”
“Just say set.”
“Cadillac Team set?”
“Alpha Team is in place,” Foster says. “On my mark we take the facility. Keep it tight and go for body shots. We don’t know who is hostile and who is just caught up in this. The job is to rescue the targets, not kill the staff.”
Foster holds up a fist and then three fingers. She drops one, two and three.
“Mark. We are a go!”
Her Alpha Team of private military contractors, decked out in black body armor and night vision goggles, M-4s to their shoulders, rush to the side door that their point man just blew. Foster, a woman of average height and build, but with piercing, ice blue eyes behind her goggles, pivots left then right as she is the first through the door. She steps left and the teammate behind her follows and steps right. They clear the room and keep moving.
Over their radio coms, they hear more doors being blown, then gunfire as one of the Teams makes contact.
“Report!” Foster shouts.
“Three security guards are down,” Joseph “Joe T” Tennant, commander of Echo Team, responds. “But we have more coming.”
“Position?” Foster asks as she moves from the first room and into the second. The rooms are paneled in faux wood with thrift shop desks and file cabinets pushed up against the walls. Foster knows the facility cost millions to build and wonders where that money went.
“We are in the west corridor,” Joe T replies. “This place looks like a set from the ‘70s. I thought we were going up against high tech and shit. I see nothing but a Rockford Files set here.”
“It’s a front,” Foster says. “Stay alert and keep moving. Look for the way below.”
The Teams came in on foot, knowing a helicopter drop would have alerted their target to their presence. Hiking through two valleys, they came upon the unassuming modular building tucked up against the hillside in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Foster knew it was only the entryway to a facility much larger that was burrowed below or into the hillside itself. Recon intel had shown her that.
But it hadn’t shown her how to get into the main facility where her targets were being held.
“This is not ideal,” Hank Zorn, head of Bravo Team, says. “We are being led like rats in a maze.”
More gunfire erupts over the com. Then voices shouting and a large explosion rocks the facility.
“Who was that?” Foster cries, as she starts sprinting from faux paneled room to faux paneled room. “Was that our demo?”
“Negative!” Joe T yells. “Cadillac Team is down! I repeat! Cadillac Team is down!”
“Shit,” Foster grunts as she comes around a corner and face to face with Zorn. “What the fuck?”
“This is messed up, boss,” Zorn says as the rest of his Team come up behind him. “Are the fucking walls moving?”
“Shit,” Foster says again as she looks at the floor. She can see the gouges and scuffs made by heavy objects. Heavy objects like walls. “Mother fuck. They are moving. We’re being played! I want gloves off, people! Blow these fucking walls and shoot to kill!”
“Hello there, friends,” a voice crackles over speakers set into the ceiling. “It was only a matter of time before you came for us. The 1% of the 1% don’t like it when their lineage is threatened. I was going to return the young ladies, with some modifications, but it looks like you have pushed my hand on this. I hold no guilt over my actions. Deep breaths and good byes.”
Mist starts to flow down from holes next to the speakers and the Teams react by yanking off their goggles and pulling on facemasks.
“Gas,” Foster says. “Nice.”
Two explosions shake the building and a high-pitched wailing fills the air.
“We have access, boss!” Joe T shouts over the com. “Heading deeper into the hillside.”
“Location?” Foster yells.
“Fuck if I know!’ Joe T replies. “We just started blowing walls until we got through! Compass says we are facing northwest.”
Foster turns that way and points at the wall. Two men strip adhesive from four explosive packs and jam them against the wall. Everyone takes what cover they can, arms wrapped over heads, faces tucked between knees.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
The wall is almost vaporized and Foster finds herself staring into the shocked and bleeding faces of several lab techs. Some stand there staring at the private contractors, others lay sprawled across the stainless steel floor or the lab tables that are knocked askew. No one moves as all eyes are on the rifle barrels and the soldiers for hire that pour into the room.
“The girls!” Foster shouts. “Where are the girls?”
A woman starts to speak, but then her eyes bulge and pink foam flows from her mouth. She convulses and drops, blood dripping from every orifice.
“Fuck! The gas!” Foster shouts.
More techs fall, their bodies being dissolved from the inside out. But others finally find their feet, turn and bolt to a sealed Plexiglas door at the far end of the room. Alpha Team beats them to it.
“Key this open, now!” Foster orders one of the techs. The man, hands shaking, barely gets the code in before his eyes roll up into his head, the whites now a dark red as the capillaries burst.
She pushes the body out of the way and moves forward as her Team starts shoving techs through the door behind her. She is in a long, steel-walled corridor, her rifle to her shoulder as she walks carefully towards an airlock at the opposite end. Zorn tells the techs that haven’t died to shut the fuck up, but no one listens. Foster ignores the chaos, knowing her people have her bac
“Hold,” Joe T says over the com as the airlock swings wide. “It’s me.”
The size of a small mountain, Joe T’s deep chocolate skinned face smiles behind his mask as he nods to Foster.
“Didn’t have to take a knee for me, boss,” Joe T says. “A simple curtsey would have done.”
“Fuck you,” Foster says as she gets up. “You find them?”
“I think so,” Joe T says. “But it won’t be easy.”
Foster follows him as he turns and starts to jog back to his Team. She does a quick head count and sees that he’s only at half strength.
“You got hit hard,” she states.
“No shit,” Joe T responds. “Some of the security guards can shoot. The ones that couldn’t set off charges.” He points to a large vault door. “I’m guessing we go in there.”
Music fills the air around them to the tune of “Wheels On The Bus,” but with very different words.
“We kill the soldiers because they hate us, they hate us, they hate us,” the song echoes everywhere. “We kill the soldiers because they hate us, they all must die.”
Men behind Foster start to scream and the com is filled with cries of pain and surprise.
“What the fuck?” Foster says as she spins about to see the techs left alive going completely berserk on her men.
Masks are ripped off and fingers go straight for eyes. Teeth find flesh and rip. Men fall as they are pounced on from people that had been docile just seconds before, but are now raging, homicidal maniacs.
“Drop them!” Foster shouts and the firing begins.
With surgical precision, every tech is put down. Most have perfectly spaced holes in their backs, while some are missing most of their heads. Either way they are all killed quickly.
“Sound off!” Foster orders as she ejects her spent magazine and slams in a fresh one. After the roll call, she realizes they are down to less than half strength. Fuck.
Then the wheel in the center of the vault door starts to turn. All rifles take aim as the messed up children’s song keeps playing over and over. But the sound changes. It no longer comes from the speakers, but from behind the vault door as the massive hunk of steel swings open.
Standing before the armed contractors are twelve teenage women. Blondes, brunettes, redheads, all dressed in dark grey tank tops with skintight black pants tucked into black combat boots. In each hand, they hold long blades that look dangerously sharp.
They are the voices singing now, taking over for the voice in the speakers.
“We kill the soldiers because they hate us, they hate us, they hate us,” they all sing. “We kill the soldiers because they hate us. And it’s fun to watch them die!”
When it is all over that is one thing Foster remembers until her last breath, the speed.
She was born into the military life, has seen combat on every single continent across the globe, but has never seen speed like that before. The girls move like cranked up cats, the blades out like claws, their arms swinging this way and that, leaving nothing but blood and screams in their wake.
Foster ducks a blade and jams her rifle into the solar plexus of the redhead that tries to kill her. The girl grunts and staggers, unable to overcome the hit. Foster doesn’t hesitate, knowing a thing or two about speed herself, and brings the rifle butt into the girl’s jaw, knocking her off her feet. Without a thought, Foster drops the rifle and pulls the long pistol from her hip. Two shots to the girl’s chest. Two small darts bob from the girl’s right breast, sending her to la la land.
“They’re our targets!” Foster screams to her people. “Tranqs only! Do not kill!”
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Joe T yells as he takes a slash to his left bicep.
It isn’t enough to slow him, but it hurts like a motherfucker. He sends a haymaker into the side of a blonde’s head, knocking her off her feet. His boot connects with her ribcage as he pulls his tranq pistol and puts two in her thigh. She struggles to get up then collapses, unconscious.
Foster watches as two of her men are split from groin to throat by one girl. Sharp can’t even express the blades if they go through Kevlar like butter. Foster raises her pistol and fires, but the girl ducks and rolls, letting the darts fly harmlessly into the wall. The girl comes up and chucks one of the blades, forcing Foster to dive to the side or lose her head.
Before Foster can get up, the girl is on her, her fist finding Foster’s jaw, sending the woman tumbling. Foster rolls with it onto one knee, tranq gun still in hand. She fires, catching the girl in the neck. The look of surprised fury on the girl’s face is almost comical. Almost.
“Sorry about this,” Foster says as the girl falls to a knee. Foster slams her fist into the girl’s face, knocking her on her ass. The girl tries to get back up, her drugged eyes burning holes in Foster’s. “Damn. You have some fight in you.”
Foster puts another dart in the girl, right next to the first one. The girls spits at her just as she passes out.
Turning to survey the scene, Foster is glad to see all the girls have been taken down. She’s also shocked to see she lost eight men, leaving her a bare bones Team of ten. Not ideal, but better than a complete loss.
“Joe,” Foster says, “you okay?”
“It’s not deep,” Joe T says, looking at the wound on his arm. “I’ll live.”
“Good to go, boss,” Zorn says. “We sweeping the rest of the facility or bugging out?”
“Command? This is Foster. You copy?” Foster says into her com. “Command?”
“Hold tight, Foster,” a voice replies, “we have a situation.”
Everyone frowns and they look at each other and wonder what the fuck that means.
“I’m sorry,” Foster says, “but the only situation I give two shits about is the one I’m in now. We have the targets and are taking them to the extraction point. What’s the ETA on the chopper?”
“Hold, Foster,” the voice says.
“Listen,” Foster snaps, “I have no time to hold. We need an ETA on the extraction, stat.”
“Foster,” a voice growls, “this is Bedford. You need to sit tight. Something bigger than us is going down right now.”
“What the fuck?” Zorn mouths, but Foster shakes her head.
“What’s the scoop?” Foster asks.
“We don’t know,” Bedford replies. “We have reports of riots spreading across the country. Wait…now across the world. People are going insane.”
“I’m not following, Bedford,” Foster says, “and I don’t care. Get us that bird ASAP. I want my Team out of here within the half-hour.”
“Roger that, Foster,” Bedford replies. “Bird will be on the way. Just a heads up you’ll be coming home hot. Headquarters is surrounded by rioters.”
“Understood,” Foster says, “just get us out of this backwoods shithole.”
“So, no sweep?” Zorn asks.
“No sweep,” Fosters says and nods at the tranqed girls. “Make sure they are secured and let’s haul them out to the LZ. There are some very influential and rich people waiting to get their daughters back.”
“We aren’t going after the crazy fucker that took them?” Joe T asks.
“Not the objective,” Foster responds as she pulls several zip ties from her pocket. She leans over a girl, flips her onto her stomach and ties her wrists together then her ankles. “I doubt the esteemed Doctor Kramer stuck around to watch the show. He’s probably long gone by now.”
The Team is able to get the girls secured and hurry to haul the sleeping bodies outside to a wide clearing. Rifles at the shoulders, the Team watches the tree line around them and the ridges above, never taking their safety for granted.
“Come on,” Foster whispers. “Where the fuck are you?”
“Ma’am!” the chopper
The pilot watches as a woman staggers towards him, her body covered in only a torn nightgown despite the chill in the early morning air. A grunt and a moan draws his attention to the trees beyond and he sees a man dressed in only boxers come stumbling out from behind a large oak.
The woman opens her mouth and hisses at the pilot, sending cold chills up and down his spine. He slowly draws the pistol from his belt, holding it firmly down and against his leg.
“Ma’am, I don’t know what drugs you are on, but you need to step away from my bird,” the pilot yells.
“Dell? This is Bedford,” a voice says over the com. “Why aren’t you in the air?”
“A problem with the locals,” Dell replies. “It’s getting a little Deliverance here.”
“I don’t care. I have my own shit to deal with. Things are fucking weird,” Bedford says. “Get to the LZ and extract Foster’s Team now.”
“Roger,” Dell says and holsters his pistol. “See if I care if this bitch gets chopped to bits.”
Dell hops back in the chopper and slams his door shut. The woman keeps coming at him, but he just flips her off and starts to prepare for takeoff. Just as he is about to lift up, the woman reaches the chopper and starts banging on the door, making Dell jump.
“Jesus!” he yells. “What the fuck is…wrong…with… Holy shit…”
The woman’s face is smeared with blood and bits of flesh hang from her mouth. She snarls at Dell and slams her forehead against the chopper while her hands, also covered in blood, slap against the Plexiglas.
“Command?” Dell calls over the com, looking past the woman to the man. He has friends.
“What is it, Dell?” Bedford asks. “I don’t have time for this.”
“When you said things are getting weird, what did you mean?” Dell asks. “Did you mean like crazy people covered in blood weird?”
“It looks like that,” Bedford says. “We don’t have all the intel yet.”